Newcastle native, Liberty grad Alex Bell shoots first feature film

July 2, 2015

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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Newcastle native Alex Bell first caught the filmmaking bug as a student at Liberty High School.

Contributed Alex Bell (right) scales a ladder to get the shot in a scene for his film ‘Superior,’ set in Michigan.

Contributed
Alex Bell (right) scales a ladder to get the shot in a scene for his film ‘Superior,’ set in Michigan.

The 2009 Liberty graduate went on to produce video highlights of the Patriots’ sports teams and a video for the school administration, titled “A Day in the Life at Liberty.”Where he really grew as a filmmaker, though, and set the stage for production of his first feature film released this June, was the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.

It was there that he met fellow student Edd Benda, now his partner in Beyond the Porch Productions, the company responsible for the film “Superior,” a coming-of-age story about two friends looking for one final adventure, before life takes them both in very different directions.

“The name Beyond the Porch Productions came from a shared passion for adventure,” Bell wrote in an email from London where he’s working on other projects. “We both connect with the stories that take us outside of our comfort zones and we long to capture that in the projects that we create.”

Set during the height of the Vietnam War in 1969, “Superior” tells the story of Charlie, who is on his way to Michigan Tech University, while Derek is counting the days to his inevitable military draft eligibility.

Before their futures take hold, the lifelong best friends embark on one final adventure — a 1,300-mile bike ride along the shores of the gargantuan Lake Superior.

With two-speed Schwinn bicycles and limited preparation, Charlie and Derek pedal through the massive northern backwoods of Michigan, Minnesota and Canada. Along the way they face hunger, exhaustion and the kind of people in the world who never wanted to be found.

The “Superior” script is inspired by the stories Benda “grew up hearing around the dinner table” while living in the Midwest. Benda serves as the film’s writer, director and producer.

Bell, the film’s producer and director of cinematography, and 10 other filmmakers and actors relocated to the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan for the monthlong movie shoot.

“The film is as much about the characters’ journey as it is about the sights and the people who reside in the Great Lakes region,” Bell said. “One of the things that we love about ‘Superior’ is that it is one of the first feature films ever shot in the remarkably beautiful Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

“The region is deep in tradition and nostalgia, which made it easy for us to locate period-appropriate props, locations and even wardrobe.”

The film premiered in early June at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood at the Dances with Films festival. It has since received overwhelmingly positive feedback from both audiences and critics, Bell said.

The “Superior” team wants audiences to see the film, but they’re still working hard to determine the best path for distribution, Bell said.

After graduating from USC, Bell has stayed busy working in the film industry in Los Angeles.

“I’ve gotten the opportunity to work on everything from indie feature films to high-profile music videos,” he said.

The bulk of his work is in producing documentary and corporate videos, though. Bell works extensively with the film branch of The Salvation Army.

“I have traveled to many places around the globe to help create videos that highlight the work of the Salvation Army, from earthquake relief in Nepal to HIV-positive support groups in Zimbabwe,” he said. “It’s been a very busy few years, but a great adventure every step of the way.”

Learn more about “Superior” at www.superiorthemovie.com.

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Comments

One Response to “Newcastle native, Liberty grad Alex Bell shoots first feature film”

  1. Bruce Benda on July 5th, 2015 6:07 am

    The article stirred in me fond memories of the summer of 2014. My wife and I were able to watch Alex Bell at work during the filming of Superior. We were amazed at the high level of professionalism and capability that Alex and the team demonstrated. Newcastle should feel proud. Not only is Alex an excellent filmmaker, he is most importantly a fine young man.

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